Disclaimer: Ha'gel, Randy McDonald, Vikki Campbell (who appeared but was never named onscreen) and any series characters belong to Tribune and Roddenberry-Kirschner, among others. Anyone who obviously doesn't belong to them belongs to me.

Rating Warning: PG-13 at least, possibly R. Adult themes.

Spoilers: Set during, and diverging from, "The Joining".

Notes: I think I've got Ha'gel pinned down since I wrote "Last Chance to Dance". Like that one, this features a little bit of "The Joining", although far less than that one did. This time, I wanted to do a bit of exploring on the topic on what would have happened if Ha'gel's first try at joining had succeeded, as well as attempt to give life (or at least a name) to a character who has less than five minutes screen time.

This story was also being posted on PhilosophySphere, under my nick there. Graeme is pronounced "grahm" (it's a variation of Graham). Yes, I know a certain character is a doctor, not a medtech. The error is Vikki's, not mine.

The Quietest Change
by Estirose (Angel Island)
copyright 1999

Vikki woke up with a fuzzy feeling in her head, quite different from her usual hangover from her visits to the Flat Planet Cafe. It wasn't painful, just a feeling in her body that she hadn't remembered experiencing before. She felt no need to get up, just to lie there, content, paying attention to the feelings she was experiencing.

She turned her head to find a man about her age looking at her soulfully. He grasped her hand, and she remembered what had happened less than three hours before....

-The evening had been no better than the day. Vikki was seething after the fight with John, a guy who had seemed friendly at first, but had just wanted to use her, like the rest of them this evening. She had splashed the drink into his face, and he had left.

Shortly after that, yet another man had come up to her with another drink. Caught between not wanting to be rude and seething inside, she made noises and picked up the cash card. It was when he'd touched her that everything had changed. She looked up at him, suddenly realizing how attractive he was, and how much she'd like to get her hands on him.

She was amazed that nobody had noticed how fast she'd driven him to her apartment building. But he seemed as eager as she, and so she hadn't minded. She'd swept him into the room, locking the door, and then he'd swept her up. Literally. She'd found herself levitated by a sparkling mini-tornado, floating effortlessly in the middle of the room, while an alien mind touched hers, caressing her mind, calming her, reassuring her. Then the mini-tornado dissipated, gently lowering her to the bed, and she found herself unable to keep her eyes open.-

"I'm pregnant," she mumbled. She knew, as she'd been floating in that mini-tornado, that something had come into being inside her.

"You are," he confirmed. She knew, somehow, that his name was Ha'gel, that he was, as far as he knew, the last of his species, and that he had been in desperate need to reproduce when he had chosen her.

"What are you doing?" she asked, as his gaze lingered over her form, and one hand reached out to touch her just below her stomach.

"Monitoring you."

It was eerie and felt right at the same time, sending butterflies fluttering in her stomach. Never had she had such intense personal attention, not from any of the guys she had slept with before. Simultaneously, she knew that the baby she carried required monitoring due to its nature, and she required monitoring because the abnormal rate of the pregnancy. Still, for the safety of the child and herself, she knew it was best for the pregnancy to be fast and over.

Ha'gel regarded her from his borrowed human facade and she knew nothing in the universe mattered to him than the safety and health of her and their child. His hands left her body and he reached somewhere behind him. She could see that he had appropriated one of her TV tables, and on top of that was food. She must need it for the child. She sat up in bed, leaning uncomfortably against the headboard.

He handed her food, and she ate whatever he gave her, trusting him that he knew what he was doing. At his silent command, she lay down again, allowing him once again to monitor their child. "Male or female?" she asked and he looked at her in surprise.

"Male," he responded, and she suddenly knew that he had caused it to be that way. A man could produce a greater amount of children than a woman could, and Ha'gel intended that his species survive as a hybrid race. She felt a warmth over the thought of many, many grandchildren, knowing that this was his feeling, not hers.

"Sleep now," he said, and she found herself obeying.

* * *

When Vikki woke up again, Ha'gel was gone from her bedside, although the chair was still there. Looking at the clock, she knew she'd been out for an hour, maybe two. Enough time, anyway, for her belly to start noticeably swelling. A part of her reached back into what Ha'gel had told her and noted that the pregnancy was precisely on schedule. She placed one hand on her stomach, feeling the unfamiliar bulge, and started pulling herself out of bed.

She stumbled across her bedroom to check if he was in the other room. She didn't suppose he was in the bathroom, but then she didn't know enough about him to know if he even needed it. She grasped the doorframe to steady herself, and found a form wrapped around her, holding her up. Ha'gel looked at her as he guided her to her worn couch, laying her down softly without saying a word. He didn't need to, though. She could feel his fear and worry as clearly as the day. He brushed her bangs back gently before getting up and returning to what he'd been doing in her kitchen.

Vikki watched him as he puttered around, doing things with such ease that she would never have known he was an alien. Information absorbed from her that he'd gained as she'd learned stuff from him? Or had it to do with the form he had assumed? Was there an actual guy out there whose form he had taken?

He loaded more food onto her second-best tray and carried it to her, offering it to her wordlessly. While she felt more energetic than she had been last time he'd fed her, she appreciated the extra energy. Carrying the baby was harder than it looked.

When she was finished he reached, as she expected, for her slowly extending stomach, placing his hand on it again. "How is he?" she asked.

Wordlessly, he took her hand, and she could feel not only the sensation she identified as him, but a second entity as well, which she guessed to be the child. At the same time, she felt something move near where his hand was, and he smiled. Taking her other hand, he placed it where his had been, letting her feel the child's existence for herself. "He'll be strong," Ha'gel said. "My people have been making children like him for many, many years. He's a good mix."

With their hands still touching, she understood. He practically radiated pride in his accomplishment, and a little bit of relief that the pregnancy was proceeding as well as it was. Part of his mind was elsewhere, on something that she couldn't quite understand. "Adjusting you," he said simply. There was a flood of images that she didn't quite understand, but she got the impression that one of the major things that he'd been doing was making sure that her body was reacting properly to the signals that the developing infant was putting out.

"How will he look?" she asked.

"He'll look human. He must, if he's to survive."

Vikki nodded, understanding. She knew that the Taelons feared him, and there must be human agents of the Taelons looking for him. It was essential that their child be undetectable to the Taelons if they were to succeed in their venture. But something still puzzled her. "But with your genes and mine, how?"

"We are not his only parents," Ha'gel told her, and she realized the third parent he was referring to was the man whose facade he'd taken on. Her baby had not one father, but two. Through Ha'gel, she suddenly knew his name. Randy.

She felt an incredible lack of curiosity about him, no doubt fueled by Ha'gel's own disgust at his host. "If you feel that way, why use him?"

"He was my only choice," Ha'gel said, as if acknowledging a shameful secret. "My need to reproduce was too great to become 'picky' about him. We will just have to guide the child away from those parts that came from his father."

She squeezed the hand she was holding, and felt a warm wave, the equivalent of a smile, from him. She had a sudden desire to have him sitting on the couch and leaning against him, revelling in the warmth. Mentally, she felt him acknowledge her thought, getting up and leaning forward so that he could sit behind her on the couch. He reached around her, taking her hand, and once more placing his hand on her belly. She leaned against him, feeling instantly comfortable, and being able to tell that he enjoyed this arrangement as much as she did, if not more.

They sat there in that position for quite a while, doing nothing more than enjoying the presence and sensations of the other. She thought she felt the baby's mental presence grow stronger as she sat there. Ha'gel even seemed to go to sleep, although when she touched his monitoring hand she had his attention again. "This is how it should be," he said. "No running, no worrying. Just the comfort mates can give to one another and the gentle presence of the children as they develop."

"Mates?" she asked, turning around to look at him. He smiled at her.

"Are we not so?" he replied, and she had to agree. The term had thrown her off, but she felt like she was one with this stranger that had come into her life and had started tossing it upside down. She smiled at him, and he smiled back.

* * *

She barely felt like she could move now. It was the eighth hour of her pregnancy and her belly had swollen out grotesquely. Ha'gel had assisted her to the bathroom several times over the last few hours, in-between feeding her and cuddling her.

He had grown more nervous as her pregnancy had drawn to its close. Finally, he'd left her still lying on the couch in the living room while he did something in her bedroom and bathroom. Finally, he came out with her duffel bag, slinging it on his shoulder. "We must go," he said, assisting her up.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because I don't want your neighbors calling the police," he said, and she understood without the benefit of his touch. If their child was to come into the world safely, they couldn't have interference. Therefore, they needed to find a place where she could safely give birth. She just hoped it was comfortable, because she wasn't looking forward to the actual labor.

He led her out.

* * *

Gradually, they did find a place to stay, a rundown hotel that seemed to be frequented by the more garishly-dressed members of society. Ha'gel had explained to her that he'd chosen the place out of Randy's memories, and that it was a place where she could give birth without anybody noticing.

He assisted her into the room, which was out of sight of the manager's office, thankfully. She'd always dreaded being seen in a place like this. But it didn't matter right now, at least not to him, and she trusted him. He undressed her and laid her back on the bed, instructing her to stay there and conserve her energy. Which she did. He fed her occasionally, rarely straying from her side.

When she went into labor, he never stopped touching her. The pain was mercifully short, the baby coming into the world easily. She panted as Ha'gel placed the child on her stomach, placing the child's tiny hand against hers, as he took care of the final details of the labor. She once again felt the small presence that had been with her through Ha'gel, and joyfully welcomed it into the world. "Hello, Graeme," she said, giving him the name she and Ha'gel had agreed to earlier.

* * *

The child grew as the hours passed and Ha'gel shaped her body back to what it was before the pregnancy. Watching the child grow was kind of like watching a flower bloom, or watching her stomach grow during the last few hours. Every time she looked, the child had gotten larger.

When she wasn't watching the child, she was watching Ha'gel. She didn't need to be touching hands to know of his intense pride in the existence and growth of their offspring. Sometimes, Ha'gel looked back at her, a smile in his eyes. Vikki was struck by his calm despite the situation that they were in. Looking back at her, he'd said, "Even in the worst of situations, a child is a joy. A child between species, an even greater one. How can I not be overjoyed at what we have done?"

Ha'gel's pride was infectious, and she was glad that she'd taken the day off. She wouldn't have traded watching Graeme grow for the world. The child had entered into the world with an innocence that made her heart ache. He'd been as touchy-feely as his father, not hesitating to let his mother know every single sensation that he was feeling.

* * *

Vikki pulled the coat around her even tighter as she hurried out to eat lunch. After Graeme had reached a teenage appearance, Ha'gel had suggested that they return to her apartment. Her belly was reasonably flat now, after all, and Graeme old enough. And, she'd agreed, it was best for her to go back to work so nobody would be suspicious.

Ha'gel had given her a final examination before reluctantly letting her go to work. She'd held his hands in reassurance and then gone to kiss the sleeping Graeme before heading out the door.

It had been easy to pass the previous day as one of the nasty strains of 24-hour cold or something like that. Nobody had had more than simple, superficial curiosity and she soon fell back to her normal work, taking care of those things that had piled up while she was recovering from Graeme. Still, to escape a co-worker more curious than usual, she'd fled out the door for some fast food. Ha'gel wouldn't be pleased, she knew, but she thought he'd understand. She was walking down the street when a police officer stopped her, showing her a picture. She froze. Randy. Or, actually, Ha'gel.

Managing to shake her head, she watched in gratitude as the policeman went on as she quivered inside. Belatedly, she realized he was cute. Too bad she was involved... with Ha'gel. Strange as it seemed, she felt a kinship with him that she'd never felt with anyone outside her family. She wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, raising the children that resulted out of their love.

If either of them survived that long.

Suddenly uneasy, she hurried through lunch and somehow got through the rest of her day.

* * *

Ha'gel met her at the door, as if he had felt her worry. Rushing him inside, she managed to sit him down on the couch. Graeme perched alternately on the chair and the edge of the couch, a satellite coasting around his parents' worry. "What's wrong?" Ha'gel asked.

"They know what you look like," she said breathlessly. "I was accosted by this police officer this afternoon-"

He picked up one of her hands and she saw the scene replay with all her attendant emotions. The he let go and said something harsh-sounding in another language. "I must not lead them to you and Graeme," he said. "I'll have to find somewhere different to stay, someplace that Randy knows about but they don't know he knows."

"And what do Graeme and I do in the meantime?" Vikki asked, taking his arm. Bare skin met bare skin, and he looked over at her.

"When I'm settled, Graeme can find me. I need you to retain as much of your normal life as possible. Graeme can remain with you until I find a way to get him an identity. He'll need one, and I should set you up with one, too."

A chill passed through Vikki at the thought, at the same time recognizing that her life wouldn't be pleasant if the Taelons caught her doing what she was doing now.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Ha'gel continued on. "Graeme must mature enough that he doesn't arouse suspicion. You and I must prepare you for another child. We must not lose the opportunity while we still have it."

"Wouldn't it be easier to find another woman?" Vikki managed to ask, remembering long biology classes in high school and the brief units on genetics and sex ed. Not that she wanted to share Ha'gel, but....

"It's risky enough with only you. If the opportunity arises, I will take it, but it is best to presume that you will be the only one I mate with here."

She felt his fear and desperation, a stream of alien, fluttery butterflies going around in her body. Unable to resist, she hugged him, and he let her. He ran his hand through her hair in a strangely human gesture. Then he let go to get up. She found her feet as well as he said something in an alien tongue to Graeme. The youngster replied, coming over to hold his mother while Ha'gel walked out the door.

* * *

"Don't worry, Mother," Graeme said as she glanced at the door once again. "He knows what he's doing. We only deal with what he asks us to do."

"I can't help it," she said. Graeme rubbed his hands up and down her bare arms, a gesture that she found far too adult for him, even if he looked old enough. As if he'd heard the thought, he paused and stopped.

"He will not take foolish risks, not with us depending on him," Graeme insisted. "You have performed a service much greater than you realize, and he will not be able to abandon you because of that. And I am his child."

She got up impatiently. She knew that Ha'gel wouldn't abandon them unless it was absolutely vital to their survival. He had told her during the time she was carrying Graeme that she'd do fine with him, with his help. And, if worst came to worst, Graeme did have her memories.

Vikki ran her hand over her now-flat stomach and looked at Graeme. Things were rushing so fast for her. Had it only been less than two days since he was born? Yet, he was walking, talking... taking care of his mother. Why had she been chosen for this destiny, other than catching Ha'gel's eye in the Flat Planet?

"Food," she said. Graeme got up, eager to help. "No, let me make it."

He nodded, and she made herself busy. In between cracking some of the eggs for an omelette and digging out the jam, her mind started going over contingency plans, just in case Graeme was found. Nobody, no Taelon, was going to have him. Unfortunately, she answered phones all day and had people yell at her... what knowledge did she have of escaping from trained security personnel?

She managed to serve the both of them food, although the scrambled eggs were a little bit watery and the toast a little too well-done, both victims of her brain being somewhere else.

* * *

Vikki was woken up by an insistient pull on her arm. "Mom," Graeme said, and she blinked at him, suddenly noting his resemblence to the grandfather she'd named him for. "He's waiting."

She didn't have to ask what he meant. Graeme was calm, which was a good sign that Ha'gel was safe. She dressed, Graeme handing her the car keys, and managed to get out to the car. Yawning, she slipped behind the wheel, hoping that tomorrow, she'd get to visit him much, much earlier than two in the morning. Graeme slipped into the passenger seat and buckled himself up before she'd asked him to.

Following his directions, she gradually found herself in the not-nicer area of town, and Graeme led her to what seemed to be an abandoned house. Or for-sale house, given the sign in the front yard. Ha'gel opened the front door, and Graeme hurried her inside. "This is only for tonight," Ha'gel said. "I've established another place where your coming and going will be less conspicuous. Come, lie down so that I may start to ready you."

And she did, finding herself on a blow-up mattress on the floor of the living room, Ha'gel looming over her and touching her. She heard him saying something to Graeme, but then she fell asleep.

* * *

It was two days after her first re-readying that she got a harried call from Graeme. Her son's panicked look had her making her excuses and hurrying out, knowing that she'd pay for all this extra time sooner or later.

She picked him up as he waited outside the apartment building. "What's happened?" she asked.

"I don't know. All I know is that he's waiting in a new place."

Graeme wasn't the world's neatest comber, but his hair looked extremely out of place and their was an exhausted tone to his voice, as if he'd run for a while. She let him direct him to where his father was.

A young man, looking younger than Graeme opened the door. He had short, straight blond hair and glasses, reminding her of some british television actor that she occasionally caught on the tube. "Dad," Graeme said quietly, and she stared at him, reluctantly recongizing the mannerisms that were uniquely Ha'gel's.

The 'young man' hurried them in, and Vikki found herself sitting on a spare chair. The person who occupied this place - she assumed it was Ha'gel's host - didn't have a whole lot of money. She saw textbooks and realized she was sitting in the apartment of some poor grad student.

"What happened?" she asked.

"They found me," Ha'gel said, a look of fear in his eyes. "I was forced to take on several forms in order to escape, and now I'm exhasted. It will be several days before I'm fully back to where I was, but there is a problem in the meantime."

Graeme looked at her from where he'd been touching his father's hand. "Father was able to, as you suggested, find another partner. Unfortunately, something happened and people took her away. We must find her before she gives birth, so that my sibling doesn't fall into Taelon hands."

Ha'gel gave a nod. "I apologize for not being able to prepare you further, but I am too tired to do so. Please, take Graeme. Save his sibling."

* * *

Vikki let Graeme lead the way. After all, *he* was the one with the information, not her. She just drove, turning as he directed and trying to make sense of this crazy thing.

Had it only been a few days ago that Ha'gel had captured her attention in the Flat Planet and she'd taken him to her apartment? It seemed like eternity, but she knew Graeme was still only a few days old, still wide-eyed and trying to learn. Only a few days. She had only known Ha'gel for a few days, and now she was searching for someone that she didn't know for someone that she'd suddenly pledged her life to. The last few days blurred together in a daze.

And what did Ha'gel expect her to do? If she had been more charismatic, more trained, she wouldn't be stuck in her dead-end job, getting verbally beaten every single day. She didn't have any experience in a rescue mission more serious than finding Denissa's lost ring. How was she supposed to handle rescuing a woman from who-knew-where? Even with a willing Graeme along, with all the knowledge of his human father's side occupation, she didn't know if she could manage what he'd asked her to do.

Still, she was the one who'd asked him if she was the only one he was going to get pregnant. Maybe this was her fault, her fault for nagging him into being with someone else. She'd hate to come home without rescuing him.

"Park here," Graeme said, and she complied, somehow managing to get money into the meter. He was tapping his foot as she fumbled the change.

"Getting pissed at me isn't going to get us anywhere, you know," she admonished him.

"Sorry, mother," he said softly. "But we must find her."

"And if we rush into something that we can't handle?" she pointed out to him as he took her arm and led her towards the nearby cathedral. "I mean, neither of us is actually carrying anything useful."

He stopped, looking around, and then held one of his hands up. A small light display, kind of like a holo of a galaxy, appeared in his palms. "Oh."

"We'll find them and save them, Mother," Graeme said, his voice hardening. "We musn't permit him to become a weapon."

He released her arm and strode on ahead, almost taking the steps of the cathedral two at a time. She followed at a much slower pace, pleased to note that Graeme was coming back at a much slower pace. "What happened?" she asked, noticing the police officer who had obviously stopped Graeme as he joined her.

"Something happened and there's a police investigation going on inside," Graeme said, obviously trying to stay or sound calm and not doing too well.

Vikki took his arm and guided him down the steps. "Did he say when they were going to be through?"

"Soon," Graeme managed. "We'll have to wait until they allow us back in."

She got him a sufficient distance away, then asked, "Did your father say how long we have?"

Graeme's eyes grew distant. "A few hours. By now, they must know she's pregnant, whoever has her."

"Okay," she considered. "I don't know about you, but I think waiting until the police are done would be good. Then we can go in and attempt to find out what happened. How about lunch, and you tell me all that your father told you about what happened?"

* * *

She finally persuaded Graeme to tell her what had happened that day. Or rather, he had taken her hand and shown her what had happened. She was amazed that Ha'gel had gotten out of there at all, with all the police running around. Still, if he hadn't, she would be left trying to raise Graeme. "So, you think he was telling the truth?" she asked.

"If that DNA scanner does belong to some underground organization, then I tend to believe that, yes," Graeme said. "We just must find out what that DNA scanner triggers, and that should give us a clue as to where they took her."

"Um," Vikki said, looking at him, "You're forgetting something important. If that is the secret base of some group like Doors' liberation, wouldn't it be likely that they'd shoot us down if we tried invading?"

Graeme nodded. "Then we must get a map of the physical structure of the cathedral and find out where they could have gone."

Vikki groaned. "I'm not looking forward to this."

"Mother, you are the only human father knows to trust," Graeme said patiently, as if explaining things to a child. "You are bonded; you could not betray him. If my sibling is to be saved, then you must save him. Nobody else can."

Placing her face in her hands, she tried not to cry.

* * *

When they got back, the cathedral was still closed. Vikki found herself strangely undisappointed; looking at the cathedral made her nervous. Next to her, she could feel Graeme trying his hardest not to pace. "Graeme, who's your father's host? I need to talk to your father and ask him something."

Graeme paused, apparently trying to decide, and then just as apparently gave in. "Mike Blaisedell," he said, reciting a set of numbers. Vikki dialed the number on her global, glancing around to make sure nobody was in earshot.

Ha'gel's host form appeared on the screen. "You are well?" he asked, frowning.

"We're fine," she assured him. "Ha'gel, I want to go and ask William Boone about her. I think he might be able to retrieve her."

"And I think," Graeme said, butting in, "That we should not worry about that and just go in without alerting whoever has her."

Vikki glared at her son. "Get us shot, you mean," she said.

Ha'gel appeared to consider this. "You have my permission. I hope not to have to meet him, but I should have enough energy to do so if he demands it. Please, try to keep Graeme safe and away from Mr. Boone if you can. You are not yet ready to carry another child. Graeme, listen to your mother in whatever she says."

Vikki closed the communication and sighed. "Public phone, public phone... Graeme, look out for a public phone."

She remembered her father stopping many times at a public payphone to call up 800 numbers of people who had spammed him via email and leave messages about the evils of spamming. He'd explained it was because he didn't want them to have their home number and harass him back. She'd always questioned the practice, but her father had really believed in it.

Graeme seemed to have caught onto her plan. She wondered if it was because he was remembering the same things that she was. Ha'gel had explained to her that it was because Graeme carried genetic copies of her memories. Ha'gel's new child probably did as well. Vikki guessed that was one of the reasons that Ha'gel wanted the woman back. Or her child, at the rate things were going.

She looked over when Graeme tugged on her arm. Looking over, she found the payphone she sought. "Thanks, Graeme," she said.

Sticking actual change into the machine, she soon had it searching for the office of the Head of Interspecies Relations. Finally, after inserting much more change into the machine, she finally reached the man in Ha'gel's memories. "Mr. Boone? I have information about what happened in the cathedral. About the offer you made. Is there a chance I could talk to you about it? Outside your office?"

Off to one side, she could see Graeme looking nervous. She was thankful that he was out of the pickup. The man nodded. "Certainly. Where do you want to meet?"

"Ah, there's this nice bench on the east end of St. Michael's park," she told him. "Could you be there in fifteen minutes?"

"I'll be there," he said, before he shut off the transmission. She sighed as Graeme glared at her.

"Stop glaring and let's find you a spot," she said.

* * *

Fifteen minutes later, Graeme was sitting uncomfortably and unhappily nearby. The snow and general cold had hindered her in finding him a hiding place in plain sight. Of course, at the moment she couldn't care less about how he felt. Graeme may have been her son, but she had to do something about his behaviour.

Letting her eyes off her son, she looked around. She soon spotted William Boone coming towards her. Absently, she noted the good make of his coat. Well, he was a well-paid, fairly public figure. Even when he'd been a simple official in the employ of the city he probably hadn't exactly been poor. She cleared her head of these thoughts and tried to concentrate on what she'd say to him. How was she going to explain her involvement? Maybe she'd get lucky and not have to explain to him why she was there and not Ha'gel.

He thumped down on the bench. She hoped it wasn't too wet. "Ha'gel?" he asked.

"I'm not him... but he's asked me to speak to you for him," Vikki said simply. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Graeme come to full attention, and cursed him inwardly. If Boone saw him... she didn't know what would happen.

Boone nodded. "Go ahead."

Vikki took a deep breath. "The woman. Beckett? Anyway, he wants to see her. It's critical, to her and to him."

"I know she's pregnant," Boone offered. "Is she in danger?"

"I don't know," Vikki offered him. "And Ha'gel's too weak to search for her. He's asked that I and another be allowed to see her and take her away."

Boone looked kinda thoughtful at that and she held her breath, conscious of Graeme's continued scowl.

"I know what you offered him," she said after he didn't answer. "You've got to understand, he didn't come here to wage war against the Taelons. All he wants is to continue living. If people threaten him, he's fight back, but he isn't a warrior. He doesn't like killing."

"I'll see what I can do," William Boone said. "Can you tell him that I'd like to meet him?"

She sighed. "I can arrange that, but... you've got to understand, you managed to hurt him quite a bit."

Boone nodded. "All I'm asking for is to meet him. The people that I work with I think would be willing to help him in return for his help. *Anything* he could tell us about the Taelons would be useful."

Vikki dialed up Ha'gel's number. When he came on, she said, "Here, *you* talk to him."

She handed the global over to him. "Here you go."

"Ha'gel?" Boone asked the image on screen.

"Yes, it is I," the Kimera said. "I had wished she could convince you, but I see that she could not."

Boone looked over at her. "I understand your concern, but I need to talk to you, not her."

"Very well," Ha'gel said, sounding defeated. "I will come. Shall I meet you where I last was?"

"That sounds okay to me," the man said. "Come whenever you can. She has my number."

"I will," Ha'gel promised. The global fell silent, and he folded it back and handed it to her. She took it back, feeling happily out of the rescue mission.

* * *

She'd finally had Graeme sit beside her. Her young son kept glancing where Boone had gone and she knew he was afraid even without any touching of hands. Vikki didn't blame him. Unfortunately, she couldn't think of one plan to get what Ha'gel wanted without Ha'gel, or at least any that had any chance of success. As she'd told Graeme during a particular fidget session, she was just not a commando of any kind.

Graeme thought they were walking into a trap. Vikki had to concede that it was entirely possible, and tried to use that point to argue that she should have presented him to Boone as Ha'gel. Vikki had retorted that Ha'gel had said to keep him safe.

Finally, the two of them had lapsed into silence, just waiting for Ha'gel to arrive. Graeme sulked while Vikki watched the people nearby, keeping an eye out for any unusual activity going on which could still mean a trap.

Ha'gel arrived an hour later, sitting between the two and gathering them to him. Graeme immediately hissed something in an unknown language at him as soon as he sat down. "You have less understanding than you think, Graeme," Ha'gel replied tersely at the child. "I am sorry, Vikki."

Vikki found herself nodding. "So, what's the plan?" she asked.

"Graeme will remain out here," Ha'gel told her. "Boone and whoever he might work for may still not know his identity. You and I will go in together. This will reassure them that we are not planning a trap. We must hope that Boone is not an extremely effective liar. If all goes badly, I will expect you to find a way out of the building."

She sighed and thanked goodness for the many exits churches tended to have. "And what if he is telling the truth?"

"Then I will have to persuade Siobhan's takers to let her and yourself go, and I will take her place. If worst comes to worst, I will embrace the void. My people may be the cause of all that's happened with the Taelons; I will not compound their error."

Ha'gel stood up and took her hand, helping her to get up from the bench, and then briefly clasped hands with Graeme. Walking towards the church, he spoke quietly to her. "If this succeeds, take her to Graeme. I have aquainted him with what he'll need to know to assure her safety and yours."

Not sure what to think of that, she shivered. Ha'gel clasped her hand, and she felt a wave of warm reassurance from him as he led the way towards the church. She figured that Ha'gel knew what he was doing. She just hoped that she wouldn't become trapped there.

She was not a big person in the way of things. The only important things she knew were all about the being beside her, and she'd only come into the knowledge by chance. What role did she have in this game of unearthly politics?

But she couldn't abandon Ha'gel. Not when he'd asked her to help, and surely he must have some confidence in her abilities. She stared at the back of his host's head as they walked into the church, noting with some distraction his attempts to keep her behind him in a way that she wouldn't be in the line of fire.

He led her to a pew, presumably the one that he'd been standing by in the confrontation that had nearly killed him. Nervously she sat down, glancing around to see if anyone was paying attention, but nobody was, in fact, the place was almost deserted after the police investigation.

Ha'gel sqeezed her hand and she smiled at him, knowing that he'd protect her. She was tempted to run a hand through his hair, though her knowledge that it was but an illusion, plus it seemed disrespectful to where they were stopped her.

She didn't see Boone until he slipped into the pew beside them. Ha'gel didn't seem startled at all, but she must have been too tied up in him to be paying attention. "Ha'gel?" the big man asked softly.

"I... am ready," Ha'gel managed, and she hoped the hesitation didn't show. "But first, I must know this is not a trap."

He reached out a hand and captured one of Boone's, while Vikki watched, entranced. Was her expression the same when Ha'gel did that to her? Finally, Ha'gel let go. "Thank you," he said. "Please, lead."

Boone got up and led them to a small area off the main section of the church. Vikki vaguely recognized it from the set of memories that she'd gotten via Graeme. She waited as Boone swiped a thumb down the DNA scanner and closed the door, nervously waiting for the secret annexe to open completely.

When the secret panel had opened completely, she and Ha'gel followed Boone into the small room and its elevator. It was a tight fit for all three, but neither Boone nor Ha'gel seemed bothered by this. She let out a deep breath.

The elevator door opened and she could see bits and pieces of what looked like a vast underground room. As Boone stepped out, she could see two soldiers lowering weapons, and she grasped the edge of the elevator door. Ha'gel flowed out beside her, taking up a position in front of her. However, it also made it hard for her to see the events in front of her. Boone and Ha'gel's current form were both taller than she was.

"I greet you," Ha'gel said to someone in front of him.

"Jonathan," Boone warned, and Vikki suddenly realized that they were no doubt in the hands of the Liberation. Her guess was further confirmed when the other person spoke up.

"I hear you have some information to offer us," the head of the Liberation replied.

"If I must," Ha'gel told him. "But first, I must check on what I have done. Please lead me to her."

Vikki found herself being led forward. People swirled around her, various members of Doors' liberation fulfilling their duties. Ahead of her, she could just see Jonathan Doors grudgingly lead them towards a small, glassed-in section.

Soon, they had all crowded into the same room, along with some medical technician. The red-headed woman, the Siobhan Beckett that Ha'gel had met above, was lying on a table with what Vikki guessed to be some kind of medical scanner over her. From what little she understood of the readouts, Beckett didn't look to be in very bad shape. In fact, she looked pretty good even with the obvious bulge. Ha'gel placed his hand on the woman's stomach, while the tech filled the rest of them in. "Vital signs are still good," she told them. "So far, her CVI's been compensating for the rapid growth of the child, to the point where she's not needed any help. Other than that, I can't tell you much."

"Ha'gel?" Boone asked.

Ha'gel blinked. "She is well," he said. "It appears that my fears have been unfounded. Now, will you let her be taken away?"

"That's not a good idea," the tech butted in. "She's stable right now, but she's in the equivalent of her eighth month! Moving her might harm the child."

"Are you sure, Melissa?" Doors asked.

"I can't be totally sure," the tech replied, "but my gut instinct is to wait."

"Then, will you let my associate take her and her child out of here?" Ha'gel asked.

"She's a CVI recipient," Doors said. "I cannot let her go running back to her Taelon masters with the location of this base."

Ha'gel paused, motioning towards Vikki. "I understand. Let her take the child when he is born, then, and I will assist you in taking care of that problem."

* * *

Vikki sat, head on hand, watching the woman as she slept. Ha'gel had convinced the Liberation to let her take the child out of there, or at least she thought so. But Doors had been unwilling for her to be in on the conference that he was now conducting with Boone, Ha'gel and a few others that she thought she recognized as regulars at the Flat Planet.

Doors had to be nuts to let them go, even if they, like he, didn't want the Taelons or their employees to catch them. Like she would betray Doors' base! She may not be as fervent as the people milling outside the glass enclosure, but Doors made sense most of the time.

Melissa, the tech, smiled at her as she returned from a bathroom break. Vikki wondered if one of the people with Doors was medical staff and would be coming to assist with the birth. Not that anybody would be wise to get in Ha'gel's way if he felt that he was being barred from his child.

She jumped as Melissa tapped her on the shoulder. "How are you?" Melissa asked. "Do you need anything?"

"No, thanks," she managed, trying to smile. "I'm fine. Just overwhelmed."

The tech fetched a second folding chair and sat down. "I can imagine. How do you feel?"

"I feel like I've wandered into this weird world where suddenly I'm the heroine in some kind of science fiction story," Vikki told her. "I mean, one moment I'm sitting having a drink in the Flat Planet, next thing I know I'm helping an alien escape the Taelons! And I don't blame Ha'gel for his acts. I mean, look at what's happened - he wakes up and suddenly he's being chased by the beings he's barely escaped before."

"Well, he came to the right place for help," Melissa told her.

Vikki shook her head. "He didn't come here to help you guys. I mean, neither of us likes the Taelons very much, but all he's doing is trying to stay alive and maybe keep his species alive. I don't think he wanted to be part of your liberation."

"And you?" Melissa asked. "How do you feel?"

"I kinda believe in what Doors is saying, but I'm here for Ha'gel's sake."

Melissa nodded and patted her on the shoulder. "Well, I'm sure things will work out all right."

The conversation ended as the figure on the platform stirred. Vikki turned in time to see tired-looking eyes focus on her own, as Siobhan Beckett began moaning. Melissa hurried up, quickly folding her chair out of the way, before examining the patient. She turned to Vikki. "How much do you know about childbirth?" she asked.

"Not much," Vikki told her.

"That's okay. She's in a very early stage of labor. Here's what I need you to do...."

Vikki found herself trying to time contractions while Melissa hurried off, presumably to get a doctor and/or Ha'gel. To her surprise, Melissa turned up with both Boone and Ha'gel. Ha'gel put a hand to Siobhan's stomach at once. "She is fine. Let me ease and hasten her labor."

Another woman joined them as Ha'gel was coaxing the child out of Siobhan. Vikki could see Melissa and the other consulting and preparing instruments behind Ha'gel. The alien, however, didn't notice as he seemed totally absorbed in the delivery. Vikki recalled his delivery of Graeme and knew that Siobhan was in good hands.

Before she knew it, the baby was emerging from Siobhan's innards. Ha'gel talked softly in an unknown language to the child as he picked the clearly male baby up. Melissa reached in to tie and cut the child's umbilical cord, and the other woman took the child briefly from Ha'gel to thwack him and clean him. Vikki smiled when the baby was placed on Siobhan's stomach. The woman made motions as if to hold the child, but the restraints prevented her.

"All yours," Melissa said to Ha'gel, picking up a syringe. Ha'gel picked the child up, a look of joy on his face. "Vikki, take good care of him."

As he was holding the child out to her, an energy blast came from the side and she saw darkness.

* * *

Vikki groaned as she woke up and wondered where her child was. She looked around wildly, finding herself on some kind of cot. Ha'gel was sitting nearby. "What happened?" she asked.

"I made a mistake," Ha'gel said. "Siobhan objected to the removal of her child. She is protecting him from everyone, including me. Apparently, I'm a threat to her and to him."

"So, where is she now?" Vikki asked.

"She took her son, who she has named Liam, and has now barricaded herself into a room. Apparently, I enchanted her too much about her upcoming offspring and now she is determined to protect the continuation of her line at all costs."

"In other words," Melissa said, entering, "he altered the imperative on her CVI from the Companions to your offspring. How are you feeling?"

"Like I got hit with an energy blast," Vikki repied. The room rumbled and Vikki could see figures running by in the hallway. "What's going on?"

"I don't know," Melissa told her. "I'll be right back, I'm on duty...."

The medtech left and Vikki sat up with Ha'gel's help. "We must get the child from Siobhan and get out of here," he whispered. "Already I have given them more information than I should have and I fear they know my plans with you."

"What can we do?" Vikki asked.

"I am in telepathic contact with Liam," Ha'gel replied. "It is, perhaps, not telepathy as you know it, merely similar to what the Taelons have with their commonality. But, I am hoping to influence him to bring his mother to me. I have worries, of course. Siobhan seems to be shaping Liam to be strongly family dependent and I may not be able to remove him from Siobhan without causing problems for him."

Vikki found herself nodding. "Okay, so how do we get out of here?" she asked. "I doubt that they're going to let us out the elevator."

Ha'gel was smiling. "True," he told her, "But I doubt Jonathan Doors built this place without a back door. We must get away in any confusion Siobhan causes and be prepared to meet up with them."

She let him lead her out the door. Melissa joined them in the hallway. "You shouldn't be getting up now," she scolded.

"What's going on?" Vikki asked.

Melissa had a grim look on her face. "Siobhan wandered out of the complex with Liam," she replied. "Don't worry, Ha'gel. We're tracking her. We'll get her and your son back."

"Perhaps I can help," Ha'gel said.

"Thank you, Ha'gel, but no," Melissa said. "The best thing you can do is stay here and keep an eye on Vikki for me. I'm worried about what the scrill blast did to her."

Ha'gel drew Vikki back inside and Melissa dashed off again. "They do not intend to let me go, and they may not let you go. We must get out somehow."

Vikki remembered a plot out of a book she'd gotten cheap at a literacy fair. "Ha'gel, I need the bathroom."

"The bathroom?" he repeated, obviously confused.

"Yes, the bathroom. Did someone perhaps tell you where the bathroom is?"

Continuing to look confused, he answered, "No, they didn't. I didn't need one, you see."

"Then let's go out and ask," Vikki told him. He nodded, and not once letting go of her hand, took her out into the main section. The first person they collided with was Boone. "Bathroom?" she asked. "You folks gotta have a bathroom here."

"We do. Over there," he pointed the way they'd came, "Corridor to your left, it's clearly marked."

"Have you found Siobhan yet?" Ha'gel asked.

"No, but don't worry."

Ha'gel nodded as Boone went to consult with some man with a ponytail. Guiding her towards the area they'd just come from, he said, "What was the purpose of that?"

"Who's going to stop someone looking for a bathroom?" she asked. "If worst comes to worst, we can blunder around looking and maybe find our way out of this place."

"I understand," Ha'gel said. "Then... let us find your bathroom."

The two of them walked in, finally managing to not find the bathroom but managing to find a piece of rocky wall that had obviously been recently blasted. The man working on the area smiled at them. "Don't worry, it's stable. And she went out the exit on the east corridor. Don't worry about being blasted."

"Thanks," Vikki said. "I was kinda worried."

"Don't be," the man said. "Hey, even we could use some excitement sometime."

Vikki nodded, drawing Ha'gel off. As soon as they were out of reasonable earshot range, she said, "There's an exit in the east corridor. Wherever that is."

"I believe that it is this way," Ha'gel told her. "Come, I will take care of whoever is in our way."

And he did. Vikki felt sorry for the five Liberation people that Ha'gel stunned with his hands, but it felt great to be out of the Liberation HQ. There were some nice people in there but she didn't really want to stay.

* * *

They were in the underground section of the city for what seemed like hours. Ha'gel didn't seem entirely there, instead concentrating on something. Vikki bet that it was Siobhan and Liam. She was more concerned about the Liberation people finding them. Still, they seemed to be going up, and Ha'gel certainly wasn't beyond stunning any opposition, as they'd had to do once before in the tunnels.

"Liam is not far away now. Siobhan is nearly out of the tunnels, and Graeme is coming to meet us."

They walked a few feet further before Ha'gel stopped again. "Graeme tried to intercept Siobhan. They are fighting. Come!"

The walls began to blur as Ha'gel pulled her forward. She later had vague recall of several sets of stairs before they came to a ladder. Following Ha'gel, she found herself on a city street as night was falling. He led her to an alley being lit up with bright flashes. Ha'gel's hands lit up and a beam streaked from them, and one of the people stopped firing. Ha'gel rushed forward, and she could see Graeme approaching, too. Graeme picked up a large form, while Ha'gel scooped up another. He turned towards her. "Shove the manhole back into place and follow us."

Vikki did as she was told.

* * *

They were back at her apartment, Vikki finding herself holding Graeme's baby half-brother while Ha'gel sat motionless with his hand on Siobhan Beckett's forehead. Graeme was trying to make dinner, although Vikki wasn't sure how much success he was having with all the attention he was paying to his father.

Ha'gel looked up. "She will revive soon. Graeme, do you have dinner? She will need nourishment when she wakes up."

"If mom gives me a hand, yes," Graeme said. "I've never had to cook before."

Vikki sighed and handed the growing baby to Ha'gel, who started chittering at him. Joining her son in the kitchenette, she was pleased to find he hadn't been making a mess of things. By the time their guest picked herself off the couch, the two of them had managed a mainly cold dinner.

Nervously, remembering the last time she'd tried to take posession of Siobhan's child, she picked up one of the trays and set it on the coffee table. Graeme followed with the second one without a complaint, and at her look, with the third.

Siobhan - Beckett, Vikki reminded herself, since they hadn't been formally introduced - looked up at Ha'gel with wide eyes. "Welcome," Ha'gel said, handing the baby back to Siobhan. "You are safe now. Both of you."

"Liam," she responded, taking her child back. "Where are we?"

"At my apartment," Vikki said, nervously wondering if it was safe to sit down.

"Sit down," Ha'gel said to her before turning back to the other woman. "Siobhan, you are as free-willed as I could make you. I hope, now, that you will assist me in raising him, and only because I asked you. We will not be safe for long, but I swear that I will do anything I can to protect Liam and you. If you will let me."

"I will let you," Siobhan said solemnly.

Ha'gel nodded. "Together, we will make our children safe."

"Welcome to the family, Siobhan," Vikki said softly. When she dared look up, she saw acceptance in the other's eyes, and for the first time in days, she had hope.

-end


Earth: Final Conflict fics